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January 28, 2014 12:24 PM Underexposed

By Ed Kilgore

TNR’s John Judis often takes a contrarian approach, particularly when his fellow progressives get too irrationally exuberant. So I wasn’t surprised a bit to see his buzzkill of a column today pointing to public opinion indicators that are worse for Obama and for Democrats than they were four years ago, on the brink of a Republican landslide.

This is all good to remember, but a repeat of 2010 is extraordinarily unlikely for one simple reason: Democrats just aren’t exposed to losses as they were then, when they were coming off two consecutive landslide cycles of their own. Republicans harvested the low-hanging fruit in House districts then, and hung on to most of them in 2012 with a lot of help from gerrymanders by GOP state legislature. But in part because those legislators focused more on entrenching GOP majorities in as many districts as possible, they didn’t open up a lot of new territory. Right now the Cook Political Report is showing only 45 seriously competitive House races, a low number for this early in the cycle. Having won so many governorships in 2010, Republicans could register net losses this year even if they do relatively well in the national popular vote (22 of the 36 governorships up this year are currently held by the GOP).

Democrats are over-exposed in the Senate, where they hold 21 of the 36 seats up this year, which is why just about everyone assumes Republicans will make gains (just about everyone thought that in 2012, too, before the primary defeat of Dick Lugar and the implosion of Todd Akin).

Even if you don’t put a lot of stock in the early polling Judis relies upon, Republicans have a built-in advantage in likely turnout patterns along with whatever value you assign to the sixth-year factor (the tendency of parties controlling the White House to lose vote-share in a second midterm). But we are unlikely to see any sort of GOP “wave” in November, if only because the “tide” of GOP success is already high. That won’t be any consolation to those Democrats who are still confidently expecting large gains in November, or perhaps even a House takeover. Still, the worst has already happened, or at least the worst this side of a Republican president standing in front of a Republican Congress for a State of the Union Adress, with the Vice President and the Speaker standing and clapping in perfect harmony.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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